The Third Degree

David Liu on Knewton’s $33 M. Round From Founder’s Fund: ‘We’re Taking All the Dirty Work Out of Teaching’

Mr. Liu

Yesterday Knewton, the Union Square-based online education startup, announced a $33 million Series D round led by Founder’s Fund, the VC firm co-founded by Peter Thiel. That might explain why Betabeat heard Mr. Thiel’s fellow co-founders Ken Howery and Luke Nosek were throwing a pre-game party Friday night in New York.

Existing investors Accel, Bessemer and FirstMark also participated in the round, along with Pearson, an education publisher, putting Knewton’s valuation higher than $150 million, according to TechCrunch. Another New York City-based education startup, 2Tor (get it??), raised $32.5 million earlier this year. But what sets Knewton apart is the adaptive learning algorithm the company developed, which figures out student’s weakness and can be applied to any type of curriculum.

Indeed, after trying its platform out in test prep, Knewton is now being used by all 10,000 incoming freshman at Arizona State for an online math readiness course.

Betabeat talked to COO David Liu about why Knewton isn’t making teachers obsolete, how its adaptive learning algorithm works, why Mr. Thiel would invest in an education startup and why Mr. Liu thinks Knewton is, basically, going to take over the world of personalized education. Read More